As Team GB boxers go for glory in the ring at London 2012 just one year on from last summer’s riots, a cross-party group of MPs and Peers has published the results of an ongoing investigation into the role that boxing clubs play in disadvantaged communities.
The survey, conducted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Boxing, shows that while many clubs are performing an important role in their communities, they face significant challenges when it comes to accessing funding.
The group contacted clubs in parts of London and Bristol hit by last summer’s riots, and the responses they received revealed the following:
- Of the 1200 boxers reported to be regularly attending clubs in riot-hit areas (of which 223 were identified as young offenders) only 3 were identified as having participated in the rioting.
- On average, clubs gave a score of 4 out of 10 when asked to rate how easy it was to secure funding, with 1 being “absolutely impossible” and 10 being “really easy”.
- The most common financial challenge identified by clubs was a lack of available funding streams.
Charlotte Leslie MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Boxing Group, said:
“The week that we might see Team GB win gold in the ring at London 2012 is also the anniversary of last summer’s riots. This is a timely reminder that sport, and boxing in particular, can make a huge difference in the lives of young people who might otherwise take the wrong path. Someone who was rioting in 2011 may, had things gone differently, have ended up competing for Olympic glory in 2012.”
“This survey is only the start of a much more detailed examination of the role played by boxing clubs and sport more generally in areas affected by crime and anti-social behaviour. The vast majority of clubs we have spoken to told us they are facing an uphill struggle to find funding. This is something that needs to change if we are to ensure that more young people are given the support and structure they need to make a success of their life.”
Yesterday the chair of the APPG for Boxing, Charlotte Leslie MP, visited the Fight for Peace Academy in Newham to hear about its successful strategy for engaging young people in communities affected by crime and violence.
Fight for Peace was established in the favelas (shantytowns) of Rio de Jinero in 2000 by Luke Dowdney MBE. Since then the organisation has developed its ‘Five Pillars’ methodology, which combines boxing and martial arts with education and personal development courses, and this approach is now being shared with organisations across the world. “After ten years we are now in a position to share what we do,” said James Baderman, who leads the Global Aulmni Programme. “We’ve trained nine organisations in eight countries, including Kenya, Costa Rica and Los Angeles.”
Since its establishment in November 2007, the Academy in East London has grown to offer a range of activities and programmes to members aged between 14 and 23 including boxing, Muay Thai, capoeira, karate and gym sessions as well as nationally recognised education courses, one-to-one mentoring, job training and other support services for young people. In 2011 750 young people came through the doors of the Academy, over half of which were newcomers.
The visit provided an opportunity to speak to some of the Academy’s members. A member of Youth Council, Michael, referred to the structure of Fight for Peace as a major strength, highlighting that it was run by young people, for young people. Another member, Layla, said this ethos continues in the gym, with all standards of competitor training together. Reference was also made to the role of coaches as mentors, for whom the wellbeing of members is the first priority.
The Pathways Education to Employment Project was discussed at length. The project, developed over four years, offers the training and specialised support required for young people to successfully access the job market. In 2011 a total of 26 learners completed two Modules (the equivalent of 8 GCSEs), with the large majority progressing into employment.
Further details about the achievements of Fight for Peace can be read in their Annual Report, which can be downloaded here.
Last night the All Party Parliamentary Boxing Group joined forces with Channel 4 and Perfect Motion to host “I Prevent a Riot”, which marked the launch of a new forthcoming documentary highlighting the valuable role that boxing can play in young people’s lives.
‘Glory Road’ follows the journeys of three other young boxers over one thousand days in the run up to the London 2012 Games. Due to be broadcast in July, the documentary will be a timely reminder of the role of boxing in inspiring and motivating young people who may otherwise have taken the wrong path through life. Director Steve Read outlined what drove him to make the documentary, concluding that “boxing deserves a place at sport’s top table”.
Five-time ABAE champion and Olympic medal hope Natasha Jonas, who features in the documentary, spoke about how she came into the sport and gave an account of her journey from being an injured footballer to qualification for Team GB.
Members of Fitzroy Lodge ABC in Lambeth described how an involvement in boxing, and particularly the club environment, had played a stabilising role in their lives. “If I wasn’t at Fitzroy Lodge,” said one member, “I don’t like to think where I would be.”
The Chief Executive of the Amateur Boxing Association of England, Mark Abberley, commented that while the evening was a celebration of the success of amateur boxing, the sport nevertheless has some significant challenges to overcome. Referring to the pressures facing clubs across the country, he called on funding routes to be made more accessible and less bureaucratic.
Speaking on behalf of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, Andy Reed outlined the task ahead in terms of convincing the government that funding amateur sports clubs delivers a social return on investment. Admitting to having previously been sceptical of boxing, he recalled how as an MP he had helped establish new clubs having seen first hand the transformational role that they can play.
Luke Dowdney, the Founder and Director of ‘Fight for Peace’, described the work that he began in Rio de Jinero twelve years ago, working with young people in communities affected by violence. Describing his organisation’s ‘Five Pillars’ methodology, Luke described the effectiveness of combining boxing and martial arts with educational and personal development programmes. Fight for Peace now has an academy in East London and is working with a range of organisations around the world to share their successful approach.
Responding to the points raised, Home Office Minister Nick Herbert MP told the audience that he had been keen to take part not just as a Minister but as a fan of boxing, and assured those present that he would take away the messages that had come through strongly throughout the course of the evening.
Glory Road (w/t) will be broadcast on Channel 4 in July. Fore more information visit http://gloryroad.tv.
In an article in today’s Guardian, Amir Khan explained how boxing had played a key role in his life. Referring to his own experiences as a child, he recalled how the sport gave him something positive to divert his energies towards. On the importance of clubs for communities, he says:
It’s all about keeping kids off the streets and giving them a bit of discipline. If I hadn’t gone towards boxing I might have been one of those kids getting into trouble. A lot of my friends did.
To read the full article, click here.
Members of the APPG for Boxing today spoke in a House of Commons debate on the impact of sport on youth crime. Charlotte Leslie MP referred to the work of the National Smelting Co Amateur Boxing Club, and quoted one young member:
“My life was a cul-de-sac of going into a gang. If I wanted an identity, security, protection, feeling I am something, there was only one option for me and that was to join a gang. My local boxing club provided an avenue off that cul-de-sac where I could find a family and identity.”
To read the full transcript of the debate, click here.